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Property fraud – don’t let it happen to you

Property fraud can happen to anyone but landlords with either tenanted or vacant properties are particularly vulnerable. There are different types of property fraud in the UK but property ‘hijacking’ is becoming more prevalent.

What is property ‘hijacking’?

Typically, a ‘tenant’ will rent a property using fake documents, then change their name by Deed Poll and take on the landlord’s name (which can be found on the tenancy agreement). Using this new name and fake documents, the criminal then puts the property on the market with an estate agent.

When the property is sold and a solicitor starts the conveyancing process, it is then difficult to spot any discrepancies and the sales transaction may go through if no-one is alerted. If the criminal receives the proceeds of the sale, the money is usually swiftly transferred to an overseas bank account and impossible to retrieve.

Alternatively, a criminally minded person may simply view details of a property on HM Land Registry’s website (this can be viewed by anyone) and target properties this way.

How can I protect my property from fraud?

HM Land Registry is taking steps to reduce the risk of property fraud so there are measures you can now take to protect yourself.

Register an anti-fraud restriction on your property with HM Land Registry

Register an anti-fraud restriction on your property with HM Land Registry. This means that any application to register a sale or mortgage on your property must be certified by a solicitor confirming they are satisfied the person signing the documents is the registered proprietor. If not, the application will be blocked. This also acts as a deterrent to would-be fraudsters.

Anti-fraud property alerts from HM Land Registry

Sign up to the Land Registry’s free property monitoring service. So if anyone applies to change the register, they will send you an email alert to warn you. This will allow you to take any required action.

Find out more at HM Land Registry - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Avoiding property fraud

There are additional steps you can take to protect yourself from property fraud.

Thorough tenant referencing

Accurate referencing is essential. It’s a complex process, so we use an independent tenant referencing company to carry out checks and protect you against the use of fake documents such as bank statements and utility bills.

Use a professional lettings agent

Let your property through a professional lettings agent that is a member of ARLA Propertymark. Members with paid subscription to this Government recognised body have to abide to a strict guidelines and a professional code of conduct. Benham and Reeves are founder members of the membership scheme.

Check your credit rating

Regularly check your credit rating with a credit agency such as Experian to warn you of possible attempts at identity theft.

Ask us about our HM Land Registry registration service

We offer a HM Land Registry registration service. We’ll register your properties on your behalf, saving you the time and hassle of completing paperwork/online forms. To find out more, email us

READ MORE: Landlords beware, don’t fall victim to property fraud

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Landlords – is your rental property overcrowded? If it is, you could be fined up to £30,000

What is the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act?

In 2019, the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act was introduced – it’s an extension of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 and it aims to ensure minimum standards for human habitation at the start of and throughout a tenancy. It also gives tenants the power to take legal action against landlords they believe are not acting responsibly. One of its key points relates to overcrowding and therefore potentially dangerous living conditions of tenants in a rental property, particularly Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs).

Legislation to prevent overcrowding in rental properties

This government legislation aims to ensure that tenants have the space they need and it reduces the health and safety risks created by too many people sharing cooking and washing facilities. It also aims to help prevent too much rubbish piling up at a property which is overcrowded, potentially presenting health risks and having a detrimental effect on the local neighbourhood.

Large fines for landlords who do not comply with legislation

There are large fines for rogue landlords whose properties do not meet these minimum standards and those who don’t comply with the regulations on overcrowding can face fines of up to £30,000.

How do you know if your rental property is overcrowded?

If you’re not sure if your rental property is overcrowded, there are guidelines to help you assess the property. More info at: www.gov.uk/government/publications/homes-fitness-for-human-habitation-act-2018/guide-for-landlords-homes-fitness-for-human-habitation-act-2018

The Room Standard

This relates to the number and sex of people sleeping in the same room. This doesn’t just apply to bedrooms but also to living rooms, dining rooms or studies – any room you can sleep in. A home is considered to be overcrowded if two people of the opposite sex have to sleep in the same room – unless of course they are a couple or if they are children under the age of 10.

The Space Standard

The ‘space standard’ is a way of calculating how much space is required by tenants, either by counting the number of rooms they have or the floor space of each room. If you calculate by counting the number of rooms in your property, these are the guidelines for how many people can sleep in each room: 1 room = 2 people maximum 2 rooms – 3 people maximum 3 rooms = 5 people maximum 4 rooms = 7.5 people maximum 5 rooms = 10 people maximum Anyone aged 10 or over = one person. Children aged 1 – 9 count as 0.5 person Children aged under one do not count

Minimum space requirements

If you calculate by measuring the size of each room, these are the minimum requirements. Rooms used for sleeping by one person aged over 10 must be no smaller than 6.51 square metres. Rooms used for sleeping by two people aged over 10 must be no smaller than 10.22 square metres. Rooms slept in by children of 10 years and younger must be no smaller than 4.64 square metres.

Provision of adequate waste storage

Landlords are also responsible for ensuring that there are adequate rubbish bins for the rental property. If waste accumulates because of lack of adequate storage, they could face a fine.

Contact us for more information on Property Management

If you’re unsure about the government legislation for a London rental property, make sure you instruct a letting agent who is well versed with current regulations. We support our Property Management clients and advise on all aspects of managing their London property, ensuring that they comply with all current and impending legislation. If you are interested in our property management service, get in touch.

--> Experienced landlords know that there are strict regulations regarding rental properties and the standard of accommodation provided. These UK laws are designed to ensure that rental properties meet minimum standards and so are fit for habitation by tenants. In particular, they aim to safeguard tenants by tackling the problem of rogue landlords, who are a small minority, but who do not en
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